Once Moma and I were ready, my boyfriend Jamie and my dad would be treated to the sound of dueling violins. Mine sounded more like an electric guitar mixed with a synthesizer. After all, this was for my friend Moma’s potential audition track.
I glanced at my dad. He was still smirking at the fact that I still played the violin. That was kind of why I never posted any tracks of my own. “If you’re going to stare at me you can just leave.”
“Sorry,” my father threw up his hands. “I’m just surprised.” He smiled his sweet fatherly grin. “I can remember when your mother put a violin in your little four-year-old hands.”
“Yeah, I remember. It wasn’t even a child-sized one.” I could picture the relic that my mother forced upon me. She wanted to make me cultured, to give me a musical skill that would allow me to be a lady.
My father pursed his lips, hiding a visible laugh. “You didn’t let that stop you.”
I shared the laugh, leaving Moma and Jamie to wonder. As a little girl, I took to the instrument with ease. By the age of seven, I was composing music. “Mic up, Moma.” I tossed her a wireless mic, one of several I owned, while I did one last sound test. “Test one, two, three,” this was followed by an emo rock beat. “All you sinners stand up, sing hallelujah!”
Moma started to pick up the beat, plucking her violin with as she started to hum along. Her voice was soft meant for acoustic music. “Sing Hallelujah, mm-mmm-mm.”
I shouted the next line of the Panic at the Disco hit, “Show praise with your body. Stand up, sing hallelujah- hallelujah!”
“And if you can’t stop shaking, lean back, let it move right through ya!”
Moma and I with our electric violins matched each other beat for beat. “Say your prayers, say your prayers, say your prayers.”
Instead of continuing with the lyrics, we both started to freestyle like a pair of rappers spitting fire over a sick beat.
Moma seemed to still be humming along, playing along with the subtle rhythm in her head. “Just finished a daydream, who were you trying to be…”
“We’ve got a crazy kind of love,” I sang with a silky flow. I held the last note, giving my best rocker chick impression. I let Moma end the track, hoping she would throw out a sick beat. She did not disappoint.
My mind was on such a gleeful high, I didn’t even both to hit the stop button. I could always edit the ending later.
My dad started a slow clap, whistling as if he was at a concert.
I took a bow and blew a kiss, just as the door opened.
It was Megan Yukihira, Moma’s mother. The small Asian woman was always a sweet, energetic cheerleader. So, she was of course clapping like a proud parent at a recital. “Wow, that was amazing! You two are just so talented!”
Moma looked like a dark, goth-chic version of her mom, but there was no doubt the two shared the same genetic makeup. “Oh God Mom. Why do you have to be so embarrassing?”
My father stood up to shake her hand like a mature, responsible professional. “Megan, it’s been a while.” His shy smile and innocent eyes told a different story. He was still the teenage boy who had a crush on her at the academy (at least that was the common story I heard from Moma and her brother Kintaro. they always seemed to be the first people privy to any gossip concerning academy alumni.)
“Hello, Remy,” Megan said, taking his hand. Instead of shaking it, like a normal person, she kissed his fingertips, while looking into his eyes. She visibly blushed for a moment, before throwing her arms around him. “I’ve missed you so much!” she squealed like a schoolgirl. “When was the last time we were in the same room together? I think it was the day the girls were dropped off for the middle school academy program.”
“Years go by so quickly,” he said with a nod.
“Well, you look good.” Megan took a step back, brushing off her plain white blouse. “Would you like to hang out in the kitchen? I can maybe cook something for you?”
“Sure, that would be nice.” Now my dad was the one blushing.
“You kids can come too,” Megan made sure to say.
Moma was already standing, hands on her hips. “Fine, whatever.”
Jamie was about to get up as well, when I placed a hand to his chest. “No thanks Mrs. Yukihira, we’re good,” I replied sweetly, speaking for the entire room.
Moma sat back down, looking relieved. “Yeah, totally, Elena’s right, we um.. need to clean up all of our recording equipment.”
“Yes, of course,” Megan said as she turned to leave with my dad.
I had a plan, to follow close behind and see what I could see. I waited a good thirty seconds since I had an idea of where they were headed (the closest student kitchen.)
Jamie simply laughed. “Are you seriously going to spy on your dad?
Moma seemed to catch on. “Do you want company?”
“Nah, you can focus on editing and saving the file.”
Moma nodded, taking her place at my laptop. “I want gossip when you get back.”
Jamie rolled his eyes as he laid on me bed. “You want to gossip about your mom and Elena’s dad? You two are so wired.”
“Well, you can stay here and clean up,” I said with a sassy hair flip. “I’m going on an adventure.”
Sneaking downstairs, I hid behind the wall just in time to hear my father’s voice. “So, Megan, what brings you to Polar Star?”
“I brought over a video camera for Moma,” Megan answered. “I mean, that was the only recording equipment I owned so I thought she might have some use for it, apparently I was mistaken. She told me she was making an audition tape to try for a performing arts school. I guess I should have checked my email before driving all the way out here.”
I rolled my eyes. As the wife of Principal Sam, Megan lived only a few hours away in the neighboring province, where she ran an American-style diner.
“No worries. I’m,” my father’s voice paused. It was clear he was smiling. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“I’m glad you’re here too, otherwise I would have just driven back and been depressed all through the dinner rush.” I could hear Megan walk to the side of the room, taking down pots and pans before continuing. “I wish I had the kind of relationship you and Elena have.”
“A relationship where I travel the world and barely have time to shoot her an email?”
It wasn’t untrue, but I really treasured those rare emails.
“So, how was Sweeden?” Megan asked while turning on the sink.
“It was nice, a lot of IVs, dialysis. The sauna and physical therapy were helpful.”
How did Moma’s mother know about his illness? I turned to see Moma had apparently finished her work and decided to join me. “Hey, what did I miss?”
I ignored her question, to focus on my father’s response to the conversation.
“Are you sure you’re up for judging the finals?” Megan asked. “From what you told Sam, I know your organs are failing.” There was an akward pause. “What if you vomit?” Clearly, Megan was trying to force out a joke.
“Then I get to taste the dish twice,” he said in his comical deadpan voice.
Megan laughed so hard she lost her breath. “God, Remy, why did you have to leave with Ali.”
“You could have gone anywhere. Heck, you could have even stayed in Japan.” Megan nervously made sounds with plates. Maybe she was plating something, maybe she dropped something. Either way, it was akward.
“I just didn’t want to be alone. I guess at the time it felt like Ali was the only family I had.”
I snuck around the side to get a view of their faces. Moma and I had always joked about her mom and my dad, but I never realized how deep their relationship went.
“Do you remember that party during year three? Ali had a headache so she left early.” As she spoke, Megan stood in place, nervously holding a single cup.
“You gave me a ride back to the mansion,” my father said, standing up to meet her halfway, “we kissed.”
“You told me I looked so beautiful under the light of the moon.”
My father put his arms around Megan. “I meant every word.”
Megan nodded, wiping tears from her eyes. “Maybe in another life.”
Moma scooted next to me, poking my arm. “We should go.”
We walked outside, to a spot in the parking lot where we could speak freely. “So, tell me what did you already know?”
Moma pursed her lips and nodded. “I was never supposed to tell you. My mom wasn’t even supposed to know.”
“After we started at the academy your dad considered leaving your mom.”
“He was working non-stop, traveling, meeting with vendors, negotiating contracts. He was fucking miserable and no one seemed to care.”
I wanted a cigarette so badly, or anything to ease the pain. “So, he spilled his guts to his childhood girlfriend?”
“Highschool best friend,” Moma corrected. “She told me Remy was experiencing constant pain in his stomach, but he assumed it was due to ulcers because he had suffered from ulcers his entire life. Then one day he collapsed on a trip to Spain. But you knew that part already.”
“About the day he collapsed in Spain? No, I did not.” It was making me sick, just how much she knew through her mom. “
“The next time he contacted my mom, Remy was at the hospital with Ali’s mother by his side.”
“So, my grandma kept it from me.” Great, that’s just fucking great.
“I’m so sorry,” Moma said meekly. “I was kind of my mom’s emotional dumping ground. “
“Was he afraid?”
“Was your dad afraid?”
“Of the cancer diagnosis? I’m sure your mom was the first person he told.” I slumped against the wall, forcing back tears. “My dad always told me he hadn’t felt afraid when his father died at sea or when illness took his mother a week later. He wasn’t afraid was he was sold into slavery to pay his family’s debts, or when he arrived in Denmark.”
Mom sat next to me, holding my hand. “He was afraid for what would happen to you. That’s why I wasn’t sposed to tell you. If you made it big before he died, you would be able to start strong on your own two feet.”
“And that I wouldn’t miss him?”
Moma turned to me, placing her hand upon mine. “We should go back to the kitchen. I think that would make both our parent’s happy.”
I had to agree. I took a moment to wipe my tears and put on my best, happy-cheerleader smile. “Daddy, there you are! I have some great ideas for my dish! Music always gets me inspired.”
“What did you have in mind?” he asked while taking a sip of whatever Megan had made for him.
“A seafood egg drop soup!”
“That could be interesting,” said Mom’s mother, standing abnormally close to my dad.
“I could use food coloring to make every element a different color!” I walked around, looking at what we had in the student kitchen, in terms of liquid, gel, and even powdered food coloring. “The broth can be tinted blue, the crab at the bottom can be tinted green like grass. I would leave some of the egg white as is, to serve as clouds but others could be yellow, orange, and red like a sunrise! And I’ll top the whole thing off with a seared scallop dusted with gold leaf.”
Megan smiled, clearly about to speak when my dad placed his hand over her mouth.
“Avoid the P-word,” he said under his breath.
“Pretty?” Moma’s mother asked out loud.
“Yes, that P-word.”
I would have given anything not to have heard that. “It does sound like something Mom would make.”
“You could do something based around flavors,” Megan suggested, “Use natural ingredients to create colors and pair taste combinations.”
“And nix the gold leaf,” Dad added.
“We can all help,” Mom said with her mother’s positive, cheery voice.
The group went to work, experimenting with various combinations. The sweetness of crab paired well with a spinach puree. Saffron and turmeric created vibrantly colored egg strands, but the best combination was sriracha and tabasco with cyanine powder to create a vibrant red.
“That is so good!” I shouted, with glee. “I need to make some and put it in the fridge to use as a condiment. Can you imagine how this will taste over popcorn?”
My dad took a taste. “It pairs well with the subtle flavor of the salty broth. So yes, I think it would work quite well on a variety of snack foods. Why don’t we call it a day? We can hang out in the rec-room, maybe watch a movie?”
“Will you cook something for me?” I asked.
Megan was still by his side, even while Moma moved on to other activities. “Your dad seems kind of tired, maybe I could make something with you.”
As if to prove her wrong, my father stood up. “It’s getting pretty late, Meg, you should head back to Sammy.”
“Oh, ok.” She kissed my dad’s cheek. “It was nice seeing you, Remy.”
His smile made me roll my eyes, but at least she was gone. “Can we make turnovers?”
“Like when you were little? You always loved to make all kinds of fun shapes.”
“That’s a great idea, let’s make fun-shaped crab-scallop turnovers!” I excitedly ran for the ingredients. It was a recipe I had committed to memory; canned crab with cream-cheese parsley and chives.
“Should we invite Jamie?” my dad asked.
“Nah, he’s probably playing video games, maybe cheating on me with Moma.”
My dad raised an eyebrow. “He’d better not be. Not while I have my knives.”
“Would you let me use your knives, Daddy?” I asked with a pouty lip.
“Maybe someday,” he said with a smile. “But certainly if you ever needed to castrate a boy for breaking your heart.” My dad started to take down a pan for the grilled frozen scallops. “Are you happy?”
“Here at the academy?”
“Yeah, I mean the last thing I want would be for you to feel obligated to stay here just because you’re the daughter of two graduates.”
“Dad, I love it here,” I said with a chuckle. “I love cooking, being with my friends. The only thing I miss is spending time with you.”
My dad put his arms around me and kissed the top of my head the way he would when I was a kid. “I’ll miss you too Elena.”
The words weren’t lost on me. I felt a wave of deep anger, in the pit of my stomach; this was all my mother’s fault. But for today the moment was ours.
We assembled the turnovers by placing some crab filling in the pastry followed by a scallop and more filling. Then each piece was closed and sealed with a fork, before being glazed with beaten egg. We didn’t talk about work, or school, only the adventures of the past and my dreams for the future.
If he really was as sick, as everyone seemed to think, this might be the last time I ever saw him. We ate turnovers while watching cartoons in the student rec room (well, I did anyway.) My dad just seemed to want to rest. “I can’t remember the last time I watched this show, I think it was on Youtube.”
The show was one I had barely seen, something that looked like an anime from before I was born. There was blood, gore, and guys who looked a lot like Jamie. The large muscular men with various superpowers battled for control of a post-apocalyptic city. “I think you could totally survive in that universe,” I said, kicking my legs up on a nearby table.
“As opposed to Jamie?” Dad replied with a noticeable chuckle.
“Yeah, I’d probably have to be the one to rescue him from the vampire-zombie-cannibals.”
“Do you ever spend the night in his room?” my dad asked in the same deadpan tone.
“Some of my fondest memories were breaking into the dorms to spend time with Megan.”
“As opposed to living off-campus with Mom, where you were an on-call servant every waking moment of the day?”
“Yeah,” my dad leaned back, stretching his arms. “Sometimes you just want to have a little fun. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you keep your eye on the finish line.”
“Don’t worry I won’t get knocked up before I graduate.” I held out my finger to pinky swear on the promise.
“Do you pink-swear on your grandmother’s estate? Because that’s what’s waiting for you at the end of the tunnel; a big fat check in the form of a graduation gift, a downpayment on your new restaurant.”
“I know Dad. I know.” After a while, I fell asleep with my head on his lap. Somehow he carried me to my room, placing my unshowered body upon the bed, on top of the covers (my clothes were pretty gross from a sweaty day of music, cooking and crying.)
I remember feeling him kiss my cheek as he said, “Sleep well, my angel,” the way he always did when he was at home.
My father took a seat in the corner of my room and pulled out his notebook. He glanced over at me as if checking if I was asleep. I played the part if only to hear what he had to say. “Dear, Elena Rose,” he said in a calm whisper. “I’ll write you something nice. I promise.”
He got up, and quietly left through the main door. I choked back tears. “I love you, Dad. I’ll never forget you.”